CHRIS MINNS – SPEECH – NSW LABOR CAMPAIGN RALLY – PARRAMATTA –
SUNDAY, 19 MARCH 2023
Thank you, friends.I would like to start by acknowledging the Burramattagal People of Darug Nation – and pay my respects to their elder’s past, present and emerging.
Thank you Donna and Prue – and thank you to Michelle, our State President, for being here. Thank you to all the MPs here, and to our friends from the union movement.
And most of all I would like to welcome you, the people in this room, the volunteer door knockers, letter boxers, and phone bankers – the heart and soul of the Labor Party – to the final campaign rally of the 2023 New South Wales State Election.
Friends, at the beginning of an election campaign the questions voters will be asked on polling day are broad, and the dividing lines between political opponents are faintly drawn.
But by the end of the campaign, the policy questions that will decide the election are crystal clear, and the political dividing lines that will define it are chiselled in stone.
Which is why I can now say with total certainty that in 6 days’ time voters in New South Wales are going to be asked two questions:
First, who has a plan to deliver the essential services families rely on?
And second, who has the determination, and credibility, to end privatisation once and for all?
How voters answer those two questions will not only determine who wins the next election, but also how New South Wales will be governed for at least the next four years.
Every single person in this room knows that essential services in New South Wales are in crisis.
If you have waited in an Emergency Department for 19 hours, or your child is one of the 4000 children on the elective surgery waiting list – you have felt the impact of the erosion of our public services.
And if your child’s classes have been cancelled or merged – or you have a relative who has waited hours for an ambulance – you have been let down by this government.
Friends – our essential workers are critical to delivering better public services for everyone in this state. We literally cannot do it without them
But friends – our essential workers are leaving.
And after 12 years of a Liberal National Government who has mistreated them, refused to listen, and wilfully let our public services degrade – can you blame them?
Last weekend I met a midwife from Nepean Hospital who told me that after 7 years she is looking to leave her job altogether. Conditions are getting worse – and there’s nowhere near enough staff to cope.
She told me that she regularly feels guilty because she can’t get to all of her tasks – and that’s despite regularly missing breaks and working well over her allocated shift.
The Liberals have created a public service where our workers feel ‘guilty’ – due to a lack of staff and terrible conditions.
Friends, I know who should be feeling guilty – and it certainly isn’t a hard working western Sydney midwife, who spends time in our hospitals helping young mothers at the expense of time with her own family.
The Liberals and Nationals are guilty of running down our hospitals. And having had 12 years to fix it, time has run out.
Last year I met a young teacher, mid-twenties – a science teacher who lived in a country town. She’d been introduced to me by an older teacher as someone who had achieved excellent results for her students.
To put this in perspective – we are desperate for science teachers in NSW.
1 in 6 science teachers are teaching outside their qualification, and in the last five years we’ve lost 1,800 STEM teachers from NSW schools.
I was speaking to her about the classes she was teaching and whether she was excited about next year.
She told me that despite being in her mid-20’s she was done with teaching – and that that year would be her last.
She’s not alone. Last year resignations beat out retirements as the leading reason teachers were leaving the NSW teaching service.
We can’t replace experienced teachers easily. The longer you’re in, the longer you’ve taught, the better you are at it.
I’ve heard from a married pair of teachers – Jack and Lisa – both high school teachers for the last 20 years.
When their daughter told them she too was considering a career as a teacher, instead of joy they felt serious concern.
Because Jack and Lisa know the unviable profession teaching now is in NSW.
They’re not alone. The pressure on our essential workers is enormous, and the retention numbers in our health and education system are absolutly frightening:
- Last year 6500 nurses, more than 12% of the workforce, left the New South Wales Health System altogether.
- 35 nurses left Blacktown Emergency Department, and another 35 left Westmead Emergency Department in just the last year alone.
- Over 2400 teachers left the education system last year – and for the first time, more teachers resigned than retired.
- There are over 2100 unfilled teacher positions in New South Wales today.
These numbers are the textbook definition of a critical issue in recruiting and retaining our essential workers.You would have seen in the televised debate earlier this week, I asked Dominic Perrottet what his plan was for ending this retention crisis.
And you won’t be shocked to hear that his answer was, nothing.
No plans to improve training, no plans to improve conditions, and no plans to improve pay.
In fact, Dominic Perrottet’s only plan is to launch a fool’s errand of trying to recruit his way out of a retention crisis.
Anyone who has ever tried to collect water in a bucket with a leak can tell you: you cannot solve a retention crisis with nothing but a recruitment drive.
Six days from polling day we now know…that the next four years of the Liberal Government will be a carbon copy of the last four.
When you have the same policies, you can expect the same results.
In stark contrast to the tired and divided 12-year-old Liberal Government, a united and energised Labor has an Essential Services Repair Plan.
A Labor Government I lead will tackle the crisis head on, with a targeted, affordable, and effective three-point plan.
Point 1: More training.
Point 2: Better conditions.
Point 3: Scrapping once and for all the ineffective, and unfair wages cap.
And we will do it all without privatising Sydney Water or any of our critical state owned assets.
Point number one. Only Labor will train our essential workers by:
- Delivering 2,000 health study subsidies every single year to attract staff and retain talent into the NSW public health system.
And only Labor will:
- Invest $22 million to turbocharge the early childhood workforce with new scholarships, professional development and research
Point number two. Only Labor will improve conditions for our essential workers by:
- Introducing a minimum & enforceable safe staffing levels in NSW public hospitals, starting with one nurse to every three patients in Emergency Departments.
- We’ll also create 10,000 more permanent teaching roles in NSW by shifting temporary positions into permanent roles.
- And Pru Carr will immediately instruct the Department of Education to deliver a reduction of 5 hours of administrative work per week for classroom teachers.
Point three. Only Labor, we will scrap the unfair and ineffective wages cap once and for all.When it comes to negotiations … our essential workers deserve to be treated with the same respect they are shown in Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, and every single other state.
We will make the current wages cap a floor … not a ceiling.
Under Mr Perrottet, the wages cap is a ceiling …. not a floor.
Never forget, in the middle of the pandemic, Premier Perrottet set the wages cap without warning, back to 0% for 100’s of thousands of Australians.
Back to zero… for nurses who were risking their lives walking into ICU wards without knowing the long term effects of COVID.
Back to zero for our police who were being sent into Western Sydney to enforce the Government’s curfews.
Back to zero for paramedics – the lowest paid in Australia – who were being sent into people’s homes with inadequate PPE for this strange new disease.
And back to zero for hospital cleaners – who do a difficult but very, very necessary job. There would be no heart transplants, no emergency caesareans without them.
The current wages cap allows the Government to claw it back to zero again.
The wages cap is a failed ideological tool. It has no place in a modern, respectful, and well managed workplace.
It doesn’t exist anywhere else in Australia, and it shouldn’t exist here.
We will ensure that any increase in pay is offset by matching budget savings and productivity gains.
Now, these are the strict budget rules that Labor has set, and we have announced tough savings measures such as:
- Not proceeding with the $10 billion Northern Beaches toll road, or the $3 billion Warragamba dam wall raising.
- We’ll reduce labour hire by 25%, and the highly paid Senior Executive Service by 15%.
- We’ll also enforce a wages freeze for senior executives and NSW politicians, that will save over $2 billion over the next four years.
These tough decisions show that we are serious about prioritising training, conditions and pay for our essential workers.But they are not just about ensuring we look after the people who look after us.
They are also about ensuring we have taken the tough financial decisions required to end the economic vandalism of privatisation in NSW once and for all.
Dominic Perrottet and his Liberal Government sold off $90 billion dollars’ worth of State-owned infrastructure at fire sale prices over the last 10 years.
- Eraring Power Station – sold for $50 million, and then the government tried to buy it back for $230 million.
- Vales Point – sold for $1 million, then on-sold by private owners for more than $200 million.
- Westconnex – cost $21 billion to build, sold for $20 billion, while the private owners make about $70 billion from the investment.
And it’s not just the fact the privatisation is a dud deal for New South Wales taxpayers.Privatisation of our ports, toll roads, and energy infrastructure has also contributed to the cost-of-living crisis that is now impacting every single family in New South Wales.
Energy prices have spiralled since privatisation. That’s delivered windfall profits to the private shareholders lucky enough to own the monopoly energy grid.
Sydney is now the most tolled city in the world, delivering giant profits to those lucky enough to own the monopoly toll roads that we all have to use.
Tolls are up, power bills up, fines, taxes and administrative charges are all up because of the Liberals’ love of privatisation.
When I say the Liberals’ love for privatisation. And when I say love, that is exactly what I mean.
Total, unbridled, blind love. A love so strong, that even when you swear off privatisation, you don’t quite mean it.
How do we know that? Because in the 2019 state election, Dominic Perrottet broke the trust of NSW voters on precisely this issue. And in 2023 he will do the exact same thing again.
In the lead up to the last election Dominic Perrottet went out of his way to assure voters that he had “no plans” to sell off the remaining stake of WestConnex.
Let me ask you, four years later, does the public still own the remaining stake of WestConnex?
Of course we don’t, and if Dominic Perrottet wins the next election he will do the exact same thing to Sydney Water.
Assure voters before the election – and then privatise assets once the polls close.
That’s just what Dominic Perrottet does.
As he said after the election – “plans change”.
Just as plans can change, friends, governments can change too. And that’s the only way to stop privatisation in NSW.
Alarmingly we found out this week that the Liberals have already started to lay the groundwork for a full sale of Sydney Water.
It’s the highest earning state-owned corporation that’s still wholly owned by the NSW Government.
Sydney Water is under threat – and on Saturday, the future of Sydney Water is undeniably on the ballot.
If the Liberal Nationals get voted back in, Sydney Water won’t survive the next four years.
Friends – it’s time to end the New South Wales Government’s love affair with privatisation once and for all.
So today – I can announce that a Labor Government I lead will legislate to put Sydney Water and Hunter Water in the NSW Constitution.
That would forbid their sale without an Act of Parliament.
At the last State election, the Government misled voters about the sale of our toll roads.
Mr Perrottet was able to sell the remaining stake without any legislation to Parliament.
Parliament got no say at all, despite this being a blatant broken promise from the Coalition.
No questions, no legislation, no debate, no inquiry, no review, Not even a vote.
Once the election was over, the company was sold – along with Sydney buses.
Putting Sydney Water and Hunter Water in the New South Wales Constitution stops a back door fire sale of our essential assets.
After assets totalling billions of dollars were sold off by the Kennett Government in Victoria, the Victorian Parliament placed their water assets in their State Constitution. And we can do the same here.
Labor also believes that a guaranteed right to a safe, reliable, supply of clean water – provided by the Government of this State – should be a constitutionally protected right for the people of New South Wales.
Friends, after the last week where it was discovered that Sydney Water had already drawn up plans to privatise the sale of the company, what choice do we have?
Only Labor will end the Liberal love affair with privatisation, and ensure vital state-owned assets remain in public hands, today, tomorrow, and forever.
Friends – next Saturday New South Wales faces a fork in the road.
Down one branch lies further neglect of our nurses, midwives, paramedics and teachers, and more privatisation.
Down the other lies a fresh start.
A chance to invest in training, conditions, and pay for our essential workers.
The chance to end privatisation in NSW once and for all.
We’ve got six days to decide which path this great state takes.
We’ve got six days to ensure we pay respect to the nurses, midwives, paramedics, and teachers who got us all through the dark days of the Covid pandemic.
We’ve got six days to ensure we protect Sydney Water and Hunter Water from the economic vandalism of the privatisation auction block.
We’ve got six days to choose a fresh start for New South Wales.
Friends, over the next six days we’ve got a chance to choose a better future for our State. By choosing to elect a united, disciplined, energised Labor Government for NSW. Let’s start today.
– ENDS –
MEDIA CONTACT: SARAH MICHAEL 0401 591 286
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